UK: 船ental' Name - Definitions

Last Updated: 20 April 2011
Article by Jenin Khanam

What's in a 'Dental' name

Most dentists, when thinking of incorporating, will probably think about including the words 'Dental' or 'Dentistry' in their company name and perhaps even think that they have the right to include the words without any restrictions or objections. However they would be wrong.

The words 'Dental' and 'Dentistry' are both restricted titles under the Company and Business Names Regulations 1981. This means that the words can not be used by anyone without first obtaining approval from both the General Dental Council ("GDC") and the Secretary of State (through Companies House).

As for the titles of 'dentist', 'dental surgeon' and 'dental practitioner' these are also restricted. Pursuant to Section 39 of the Dentist Act 1984 only those who are registered dentists or a visiting EEA practitioner who is also registered are authorised to use the words.

Establishing whether you can use the restricted words can be a minefield and getting the right advice on the outset of the process could save both time and money in the long run.

The First Stage

Firstly to establish approval from the GDC, a "letter of non-objection" must be obtained for the business name prior to submission to Companies House.

The application must be in writing and clearly state the proposed business name and the business activity (eg dental supplies, dental practice, or dental laboratory). Decisions are made faster by the GDC if the application also includes the full postal address of the business, the applicant's name and GDC registration number (if registered).

Objections are rare but will be raised if the GDC is concerned that the company business name would mislead people as to the nature of the business. The GDC's policy regarding such applications leans towards the business name giving a clear indication of the nature of the service to be provided. For example, if the business is a laboratory then the name "Clean Teeth Dental Laboratory Ltd" would meet no objection. However "Clean Teeth Dental Ltd" may give rise to an objection because there is no indication of the service that is being provided by the company.

The GDC is under no obligation to check whether a business name is being used by another company or business. Its main duty is to ensure that the public are not misled by the submitted business name.

The Second Stage

The letter of non-objection from the GDC in itself is not sufficient for registration purposes. Once the letter of non-objection is received from the GDC, it must be sent with an application to Companies House, which administers the next stage of the approval process on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Companies House can require the name to be changed if it feels that the name is misleading or too like that of an existing company.

Where a business name is already in use or too similar to an existing name, Companies House will not allow registration. Checks can be made in advance on the Companies House Register to establish whether the proposed business name is currently being used. This would avoid obtaining a letter of non-objection from the GDC only for the application to be refused by Companies House.

What about Domains?

Dentist might think there is no need to seek approval from the GDC or the Secretary of State for domain names, but they would be wrong. Domain names which include the words 'Dentist' or 'Dentistry' still require approval from the GDC (by way of a letter of non-objection) and approval from the Secretary of State before the domain name can be used. If the domain name does not contain the restricted words and subject to the criteria set out in the Business Names Act 1985 you may be able to register your domain.

Domain names are legislated under the Business Names Act 1985 and two criteria must be met. Applicants:

  • must be a person who has a place of business in Great Britain
  • carry on a business in Great Britain.

To establish a place of business in Great Britain the following must be verified:

  • the business can be transacted through the website
  • the business is aimed at customers in Great Britain
  • the business is conducted by customers in Great Britain.

To establish whether the business is be carried on in Great Britain the following can be used as verification:

  • transactions are conducted through the website
  • the domain name is used as a mark of identification
  • the domain name is used as a way to advertise the business

Once the above is established and provided that the domain name does not involve the following:

  • the website is used only as a passive provision of information; or
  • an access point for a business being carried on in a different business name; or
  • the registered company name is being used as a domain name (the company name will still be subject to the approval process)

then the domain name may be used subject to the approval of the GDC and the Secretary of State.

However the approval and letter of non-objection for the domain name should not be confused with the need for separate approval of the business name.

'Dentist' or 'Dentistry' not used

If the restricted words are not used then there is no need to seek approval from either the GDC or the Secretary of State. However the Companies House registration process will still need to be complied with to establish and register the business name. Companies House still has the power to reject applications if the name is already in use or it considers the name too similar to another business name.


Careful thought needs to be given to the choice of name and it is important to be aware that the use of the titles "dentist", "dental" and "dentistry" are subject to legal restrictions.

Applicants should think carefully about the service that is to be provided by the company and whether the business name clearly indicates such the service before making the application for the letter of non-objection from the GDC.

Seeking confirmation of business names and domain names can be complicated. It is better to seek confirmation and professional advice before the registration process commences, saving practice time and expense in the long run.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Jenin Khanam
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